MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (03/21/2022) In a paper published today in Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Medical School researchers found that youth frequently endorse sexual and gender identities that are not typically included in forms and surveys. For example, 43% of transgender and gender diverse students identified as nonbinary. Likewise, similar numbers of youth identified as pansexual (1.7%) as gay or lesbian (1.6%). 

Led by Amy Gower, PhD, the research team examined the prevalence of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities among youth using the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, which included over 124,000 students in grades 8, 9 and 11. The researchers also focused on how experiences of bias-based bullying and depressive symptoms varied by sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Many LGBTQ+ youth reported depressive symptoms and experiences of identity-based bullying. Over half of pansexual, queer and nonbinary youth, as well as transmasculine youth who were assigned female at birth, reported being bullied because of their identity. 

“These rates of bullying are particularly troubling because we know from many other studies that bias, descrimination, and harassment drive emotional distress,” said Gower, a research associate of general pediatrics and adolescent health at U of M Medical School. “Everyone who works with LGBTQ+ youth has a role to play in eliminating bias, and creating inclusive spaces so LGBTQ+ youth can thrive.”

The study identified a change in survey response options better reflects the terms youth use to describe their own identities.

“Being able to self-define identities is incredibly powerful and is important for resilience building. When LGBTQ+ youth are treated with respect and dignity by peers and adults and in systems such as schools and healthcare settings, we see positive impacts on emotional health and wellbeing,” said Nic Rider, PhD, assistant professor and coordinator of the transgender health services program at the U of M Medical School Institute for Sexual and Gender Health.

The researchers recommend that all professionals working with young people educate themselves on the range of sexual orientation and gender identity labels LGBTQ+ use, and to update forms and surveys appropriately. Taking these actions is a critical next step toward eliminating stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ youth. 

This research was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01MD015722. 


Kat Dodge

DISCLAIMER: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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